Keeping our high streets alive is an ever more challenging concern. In Fleetwood the lack of local authority and Government support and the rise in internet shopping means our retailers are struggling to keep their heads above water – and many don’t. There are now more than 20 empty shop units on Lord Street and many other retailers are warning they have just months left before having to make the decision to throw in the towel. Regular readers of my website will know that a very particular concern of mine has been the Store 21 unit. I have repeatedly contacted Wyre Borough Council about this awful eyesore and I’ve got nowhere.
I’ve now discovered who the owners of the building are and have this week written to them. In my letter I have highlighted the impact the state of the property is having on our town – and on the chances of the building being let in the future.
“As you may be aware, since the loss of the previous tenant the property has not fared well. Last spring part of the former store’s signage was ripped from the building by the wind and smashed into the pavement, thankfully without injuring any passers-by. Multiple windows have been smashed and partially boarded up. Last winter it became apparent that organised criminals had broken into the building and had established a major cannabis factory with plants estimated to be worth £3 million. Those left in squalid condition to tend the plants were identified as victims of modern-day slavery by the police. I am sure it is deeply frustrating that it has not been possible to find a tenant for the building and acknowledge that in part this is likely to be due to the difficult conditions facing many high street retailers, but I fear that without intervention the condition of the building will deteriorate further making it far less appealing to potential tenants. The building is the largest shop on our high street and was once the much-loved and sorely-missed Marks and Spencer’s store. It holds a special place in the heart of many Fleetwood residents and so it is particularly upsetting for many to see it in such a sorry state. Having such a prominent building so obviously derelict creates a terrible impression of our high street, depressing trade and deterring further investment – whether in this shop or elsewhere. I would therefore like to discuss if there are ways we could work together to improve the appearance of the building from the street. A solid hoarding printed with an attractive design could easily cover both the street-level windows and the store name panels, better securing the building and reducing the sense of blight on the street. Indeed I have seen examples where such hoardings have been turned into a positive benefit for the local area – for example in Lancaster where the entrance to the former BHS store has panels printed to promote the annual programme of community festivals. If you would be amenable to discussing a way forward for the building, I would be happy to meet you.” I’ll keep you updated when I receive a response.